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May 14, 2019

Death sentence of Shahrukh, other convict commuted to life term

Karachi

May 14, 2019

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday commuted death sentence of Shahrukh Jatoi and Siraj Ali Talpur to life imprisonment but maintained the life jail term of the remaining two convicts in the Shahzaib Khan murder case.

Shahrukh and Siraj were sentenced to death while Siraj’s brother Nawab Sajjad Ali Talpur and his employee Ghulam Murtaza Lashari were sentenced to life imprisonment by an anti-terrorism court on June 7, 2013, after it found them guilty of murdering private university student Shahzaib on December 24, 2012.

A special constituted bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar heard and decided the appeals following judgment of the Supreme Court which set aside the previous judgment of the SHC in which the high court had struck down the conviction awarded by the anti-terrorism court and remanded back the case to a sessions court for de novo trial.

Disposing of appeals of the convicts through a detailed judgment, the SHC observed that since the legal heirs of the deceased Shahzaib had compounded the offence of Qatl-i-amad under the Section 302 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), therefore, along the lines of dictums laid down by the Supreme Court with regard to the impact and effect of compounding offences under the provisions of the PPC and the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997, the death sentence awarded to Shahrukh and Siraj was reduced from death penalty to life imprisonment under the Section 7 (a) of the ATA 1997, which was not compoundable.

The court observed that the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to appellants Lashari and Sajjad was though compoundable under the Section 302 of the PPC but these two appellants had also been sentenced to life imprisonment under the Section 7 (a) of the ATA 1997, which was maintained.

The SHC observed that the prosecution had established the charge and there was no illegality or wrongfulness in the impugned judgment of the trial court.

The high court observed that nothing was on record to believe or doubt the presence of eyewitnesses at the place of incident or to mull over or contemplate their statements false according to the principle of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus (false in one thing, false in everything) which was now in line with the aforesaid dictum of the Supreme Court had become an integral part of jurisprudence in criminal cases which was to be given effect to, followed and applied by all the courts in the country in its letter and spirit.

The court observed that contrary to the defence witnesses, the eyewitness account unambiguously brought to light the presence of appellants at the scene of crime.

The court observed that in the case in hand, all the appellants followed and chased the deceased and their presence at the scene of crime was also corroborated by the eyewitnesses.

Rejecting the defence counsel’s arguments with regard to defects and discrepancies in evidence of the prosecution, the court observed that unshaken ocular testimony was otherwise available so such defects or discrepancies which otherwise proven in the evidence could not become a ground to acquit the appellants unless such defects had seriously dented or prejudiced the case of prosecution.

Prosecution witnesses had testified that appellant Shahrukh and Siraj did straight fires at Shahzeb who was in his car after which the car collided with a tree and a wall of a bungalow.

They further stated that Sajjad and his servant went to the car of Shahzeb, looked in the car and stated that Shahzeb was still alive, after which Shahrukh and Siraj alighted from their car, shot Shahzeb and fled.

The court dismissed Shahrukh’s application with regard to his trial under the juvenile justice system as it was claimed that he was juvenile at the time of the commission of offence. The court observed that a medical board comprising experts of different subjects and disciplines had given a unanimous opinion that at the time of the offence, his age was above 19 and below 20.

The court also dismissed an application with regard to the trial of the appellants under the anti-terrorism law observing that the case in hand was rightly tried by the anti-terrorism court with no jurisdictional error or shortcoming.

It is pertinent to mention that the family of Shahzaib had pardoned all the killers involved in his murder. Filing affidavits before the SHC, the family members submitted that they had pardoned the appellants outside the court without any pressure, coercion or interest but in the name of Almighty Allah. They said that they had waived the right of Qisas and Diyat and they would have no objection if the court acquitted the appellants in the larger interest of justice.

The prosecution claimed that Lashsari, an employee of Siraj, eve-teased Shahzaib’s sister after which an argument took place between Shahzaib, and Shahrukh, Siraj and others, but the matter was temporarily resolved due to the intervention of Shahzaib’s father Aurangzaib Khan.

According to the prosecution, the accused later followed Shahzaib, who left the house in his vehicle after the brawl, and later at the instigation of absconding co-accused Asif Lund and Salman Jatoi, Shahrukh and Siraj made murderous assault on Shahzaib with pistols on Khayaban-e-Bahria near Mubarak Masjid who succumbed to his injuries at Ziauddin Hospital.

The brutal killing of Shahzeb by the persons belonging to influential families sparked public outrage and protest demonstrations by several groups of civil society and ultimately the Supreme Court took suo moto notice over the incident and ordered the police to arrest the culprits and prosecute them without any delay.

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